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Open Access Highly Accessed Open Badges Research article

Argonaute proteins: potential biomarkers for human colon cancer

Lan Li1, Chaohui Yu1, Hengjun Gao2* and Youming Li1*

Author affiliations

1 Department of Gastroenterology, the First Affiliated Hospital, College of Medicine, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, 310003, China

2 Institute of Digestive Disease, Tongji Hospital affiliated to Tongji University, Shanghai, 200065, China

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Citation and License

BMC Cancer 2010, 10:38  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-38

Published: 10 February 2010



Although Argonaute proteins are considered to play important roles in stem cell self-renewal, RNA interference (RNAi) and translational regulation, relatively little is known about their functions in human disease. In this study, we investigated the expression of eight members of human Argonaute family in colon cancer and identified their potential roles in tumor development and progression.


Antibodies against human Argonaute proteins were prepared by immunizing rabbits with synthetic peptides derived from the sequences of Argonaute members. Then we constructed a tissue microarray containing 75 specimens from colon cancer and 75 specimens from adjacent non-cancer tissue, and assayed eight different proteins (EIF2C1, EIF2C2, EIF2C3, EIF2C4, PIWIL1, PIWIL2, PIWIL3 and PIWIL4) by immunohistochemistry on consecutive formalin-fixed tissue microarray sections.


The expression of EIF2C1-4 and PIWIL1-4 was significantly higher in tumorous tissue than in adjacent tissue. Notably, a significant correlation was observed between the positive expression of EIF2C2, EIF2C3, EIF2C4, PIWIL4 and the presence of distant metastasis. Logistic regression analysis revealed that an increased expression of EIF2C1 and PIWIL2 was significantly associated with occurrence of colon cancer tissue compared with non-cancer tissue.


Argonaute proteins are overexpressed in colon cancer relative to adjacent non-cancer tissue. The expression of EIF2C2-4 and PIWIL4 appears increased in advanced tumors with distant metastasis, suggesting it may promote tumor invasion. Furthermore, EIF2C1 and PIWIL2 might represent novel colon cancer markers with early diagnostic significance.